Growing up Vietnamese-American, Chinese New Year is important to me. Instead of busting out bottles of bubbly and watching a ginormous ball drop at midnight, festivities include dragon dances, lion parades, and offerings of fruit baskets and moon cakes.
The best part of celebrating Chinese New Year? The money traditions. And while the date changes every year (it coincides with the new moon of the first lunar month), here are a few ways the dollar is used to ring in every Chinese New Year.
Fact: Money doesn’t grow on trees. But it does (sorta) during Chinese New Year. Red envelopes containing money are given to kids or unmarried folks. If you’re an established couple or are bringing in the Benjamins, you’re expected to gift grandparents and other respected elders with these red envelopes. If you live in China, your boss might even hand you a red envelope with a small amount of cash.
The color red symbolizes good things: energy, happiness, prosperity and good luck. And the dollars inside – which should be crisp – are a sign that you wish goodwill and success to the recipients.
So how much money should you give out if you celebrate this holiday? It really depends on your relationship with the recipient. If you just got married, for example, you’re typically not expected to include as much money in a lucky envelope as someone who has been married for two decades.
This is a favorite money tradition for obvious reasons. Who doesn’t like free money?
What it teaches you about money: If you are gifted with red envelopes of cash, figure out how this can help your financial situation. Maybe you can sock some money away toward your e-fund, or use it toward debt repayment. I typically spend part of the money, and the rest goes toward savings.
On the flip side, if you’re expected to dole out cash, make sure to save for it well ahead of time. Figure out how much you’ll need, and auto-save so you can meet your gifting goals. If you’re a Chime Bank member, you can automatically put aside a set amount on payday.
We’re not talking about mind games or outdoor games or kiddie games. We’re talking about games of chance, like Blackjack or Mahjong. Vietnamese folks like me play Bầu Cua Tôm Cá, a gambling game involving three dice. It’s pretty common to play these games during Chinese New Year, and at least in my family, it’s certainly more about the camaraderie than winning.
What it teaches you about money: Gambling is a big no-no for obvious reasons. If you want more money, you’ll need to save it, perhaps by using a money-saving app. You should also earn it or maybe invest it. But the idea is: Do the right thing with your money, and you’ll be more apt to increase your net worth after many years.
The Year of the Pig and Money
While you’d like to think that your Chinese Zodiac year is going to be 100 percent awesome sauce, the truth is: It can go either way. This year – 2019 – marks the year of the pig in the Chinese Zodiac system. If you were born in the year of the pig, which is the twelfth year in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle, this means you were born in 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019 – you get the point. It also means you’ll want to be cautious with your money as those born in the year of the pig tend to stress about money big-time.
You may also experience a stroke of good luck and get a windfall of cash, perhaps in the form of a donation, inheritance or bonus. And if you had a bad time with investments in years past, things might turn around for you in 2019. If we’re talking about which periods are best for those born in the year of the pig, it’s February, March and July. The least favorable period is the month of May.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Whether you were born in the year of the pig or not, it’s always important to make the most of your money, and treat it right. After all, you can’t depend on the Chinese Zodiac, fate, or the cosmos to work in your favor. It’s up to you to take steps to boost your finances.